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in the 2012 election. "washington journal" live at 7:00 a.m. eastern. >> watched gavel-to-gavel coverage starting tuesday, every minute, every speech live on c- span. coming up next, "the communicators" with a look at technology and u.s. foreign policy, followed by past democratic convention speeches appeared first, john f. kennedy in 1960, followed by president lyndon johnson in 1964. >> this week on "the communicators," a discussion of foreign policy and technology. joining us is alec ross, the senior advisor for innovation at the state department. it would come just in an overall sense -- how does the state department use technology to further its goals? >> look, we live in a world where technology, networks are
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of increasing consequence in our foreign policy. it is increasingly the backbone for communications in commerce around the world. so for us, it is just a tool, but it is an important tool. we use it for communications. we have 288 facebook pages with 13 million fans. i think we have almost 200 official twitter accounts with a couple million followers. we are using it for communication, but of greater consequence in my opinion is part of what we are looking at our some really tough traditional foreign policy challenges -- are some really tough traditional foreign-policy challenges and thinking about how we can apply to america's unique strengths of our ability and technology and see how we can apply this to any given foreign policy challenge. >> when you release information via facebook or twitter -- >> we do. there are times when the official statement from our spokesperson or from the department will come over twitter.
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it is interesting to think about syria. no member of the united states government will ever be able to get a fair shake on syrian media, and we have a terrific ambassador to syria named robert ford. what he began doing was his way of communicating with the syrian public since he was being blacked out of traditional media in syria was to publish on facebook. a lot of what he shared both with the syrian people as well as with the out like the the outside world came from postings he made on facebook -- as well as with the outside world. demonstrating atrocities by the assad regime. with the state department actually published that content was over facebook. >> alec ross, in a recent article for cnn, you wrote that the 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak. and it is. we live in a time where the kind of control that a ceo or secretary of state might have had 15, 20, 25 years ago -- the kind of control that that leader
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had then is gone, and it is not coming back. it used to be the case that most people got their news from the one newspaper that they read in the morning and the one tv news broadcast they watched at night. if you were able to effectively in a gauge that one newspaper or that one news broadcaster, then your message was out there and it was fine -- effectively engage. today, we live in a new cycle. our ability to control the information environment is gone, and how a government response to that -- either by fighting it or by understanding the universe of connectedness and the loss of control -- can be a good thing for one citizenry -- how a government response to that. all government response to that is a real test of its values. -- how government responds. >> also joining us this joseph marks. >> a lot of people credited
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social media with the arabs spring. how important do you think social media was to the arabs spring? how will it move forward? >> some people refer to the arabs bring revolutions as facebook revolutions or 20 revolutions. i do not buy it. to be blunt, i think it is an overstatement. at the people rebelled because of a lack of democratic participation, lack of economic opportunity, frustration about corruption, frustration with ruling families, and high food prices. i think those five things had more to do with causing people to rebel than social media. having said that, i do think we can look and say with the benefit of some retrospection that there are clearly three things that connection technologies did in the context of this revolution. one -- it accelerated movement- making. the process of developing political movements, whether it was apartheid in south africa or the pro-democracy movements in
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eastern europe during the 1970's or 1980's -- these were movements that tended to be years-long in the making. because of the relatively open platforms that are social media, movements that would have once taken years now take days, weeks, months. thing two -- the information environment has been enriched because of social media, and that was a grand consequence in the context of these revolutions. in tunisia, for example, most people know the story of the fruit and vegetable vendor lighting himself on fire on december 17, 2010. what people do not know is that then unleashed a series of protests that unleashed the arabs spring -- arab spring. what people do not understand is why a relatively isolated event in a small town in tunisia was able to quickly spread . the reason why it was able to
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quickly spread through tunisia is because the protests themselves were captured over mobile phones. the videos were accurate and distributed by tunisian, so people with relatively small social media followings were suddenly able to reach huge numbers of people through things like satellite television and social media more broadly. the third thing that i think we can definitively say is that social media and technology facilitate leaderlessness, leaderless for movements. there is nobody space you are going to put on a t-shirt from these revolutions. when you look at the leadership structure, it looks like the internet itself, like a web more than a pyramid within -- with a charismatic leader. >> that leaderlessness itself can make it difficult to form policy and it can make it difficult for revolutions to take hold. how does the state department
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deal with that? >> look, it is a huge problem. on the one hand, the relative leaderlessness of the internet- enabled movement is a good thing. it means the revolutions are more citizen-center then propelled by a cult of personality. on the other hand, what about when the revolution is over? who is in charge? where is thomas jefferson? where is nelson mandela? the leadership is distributed. there are not a go-to leaders are around whom the country will rally -- there are not go to the leaders. there are institutions, as in poland with the solidarity movement, behind whom a new government can be formed. it presents enormous challenges to the state department. it presents even bigger challenge is, frankly, to the people in a country that has just overthrown its ruler and has to then ask itself -- now what? who is going to lead us? there are both good aspects and
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negative aspects to the role of the internet in propelling these movements. >> you mentioned robert for's work with social media in syria, which he has kept up even since the embassy has been closed -- robert ford's work. to what extent can those virtual indices fulfill the role of an actual embassy, and where do they fall short? >> they fall well short of what a real, traditional embassy can do. what facebook does not do is replace the very necessary work of engaging face-to-face. i do think that we are able to be able to engage with people virtually, and that is a good thing, but it is something considerably less than having 100 people in a country getting to know and engage with business leaders, with civil society leaders, and others. it is worth doing, but it is a case where i do not think we can replace our embassies around the world, for example, with virtual presence is. >> just to follow-up on mr.
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marks' question, what are the limits, besides having a physical presence, to diplomacy and technology? >> the first thing is i think it is important to not be technology-centric. i was a history major. i am not an engineer by background, so the way i think about this work is not leading with the technologies, not leading with the internet, but rather thinking about the foreign policy challenge. in confronting the foreign policy challenge, you've got a tool box, and there are a lot of different tools in it, and one of them is technology. i think it can be very powerful. it is a great way to communicate. we are using it to positive effect in syria, for example, right there, -- right now, where we have provided non-legal assistance to rebels to be able to communicate effectively. but in other cases, that which requires a real person present, that which requires a
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relationship i still think requires good, old-fashioned, but juppe diplomacy. >> to go back to one of your previous sentences, is it a bad thing that there is not necessarily somebody to wear on your t-shirt or someone to gather around? >> i think sometimes it can be. there are positives and negatives to it. on one hand, it is not driven by a cult of personality. on the other hand, you do need leaders. let's think about the state department, for example. even though the state department has gone from being what would be considered a relatively innovation-averse environment to something that the partnership for public service called the most innovation-friendly cabinet agency in government, that required good, old-fashioned leadership. if you take hillary clinton, for example, out of the mix, i do not know that we would be able to do a fraction of this. speaking personally, speaking
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for ourselves, it took a traditional hierarchical leader to drive the innovation and change in our department. hillary clinton is the most innovation-friendly american diplomat since benjamin franklin, and it took a leader like that to so dramatically change the department over the last four years. >> does she tweet or post on facebook personally? >> she does not personally, but she is a robust consumer of information across all platforms. she is a voracious consumer of information, but she is not keeping it in herself with her thumbs. >> we are talking with alec ross, senior advisor at the state department for innovation, and joseph marks. >> you were describing secretary clinton as one of the greatest innovators in the history of diplomacy. how did that happen? how did you take a lot of diplomats who have been in the
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positions for a number of years and get them on twitter, get them on facebook? >> first, the point i would make is it is not all about twitter and facebook. it varies across countries. part of what i want to do is broaden the notion of the tools that we use beyond google, facebook, and twitter. that is just one point that i want to make. as to your question, we have made it a value, and there are a couple of different things we have done. first of all, every diplomat from the 22-year-old entering the foreign service to a rising ambassador is now getting trained on the role of technology within foreign policy. every rising american ambassador has been trained by me personally. it is also the case that because we are such a globally distributed organization, working in over 190 countries, there are foreign service officers all over the world that need a lot of hands-on assistance. we created something that is
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like a reverse internship program called the virtual student foreign service. i am 40 years old. i did not send or receive a single e-mail when i was in college, and i did not own a mobile phone until i was 28. i am not the digital data, but everyone under the age of 30 is like fish in water when it comes to the use of the internet. we said we should take advantage of this, and we created a prestigious internship called the virtual student foreign service, where american university students actually tudor -- tutor veteran foreign service officers and help foreign service officers around the world leverage technology within the good old fashioned world of diplomacy. today, we have had 343 of these interns coaching our diplomats in 90 countries, so that is another way that we are sort of catalyzing a culture of technology and innovation at the state department. >> was there an age to clam up after -- urge to clam up after
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wikileaks? >> know, quite the contrary. it actually proves the point about the power of networks. it has a web address instead of a street address. it truly transnational and virtual in nature -- it is truly transnational and virtual in nature. when you recognize that an organization like that can so disrupt the conduct of foreign policy, you can do one of two things -- you can either curl into the fetal position or you can say, "you know what? these networks are of great power and great consequence in our foreign policy. we need to be as strong as possible." secretary clinton is not one to curl into the field position, nor are any of the rest of us at the state department. if anything else, it has just confirmed the need for us to the internet smart. >> one of the secretaries in initiatives has been pushing for
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internet freedom abroad, often equated it with freedom of speech -- one of the secretary's initiatives. do you think that the internet is where speech is happening now? >> i do. hillary clinton is america's 67 secretary of state. our first secretary of state was thomas jefferson. jefferson said the only legitimate foundation for government is the will of its people, and to preserve free expression should be our first order. from america's first secretary thosete to its 67tht, values have been the same peer in valuing free expression, valuing free assembly, valuing the role of a free press. if you care about any of these values, any of these freedoms in the year 2012, then you have got to believe in the freedom to exercise this on the internet. freedom of speech in 2012 has to extend to the internet. freedom of association and assembly has to extend to the
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internet. a free press in 2012 passed to extend to the internet. >> does it extend in china? >> it does not. there are a lot of freedoms that have been curtailed in china. but it is really interesting what is happening there -- there are more than 500 million internet users in china. more than 350 million of whom use social media. over 250 million are under the age of 25. on one hand, the chinese government puts an enormous amount of effort into clamping down on content on the internet, but on the other hand, because there are hundreds of millions of people publishing there, it -- its ability to manage the information environment is minimal. about a year ago, if you search for my name -- searched for my name on a search engine in china, you would have gotten a couple million results. in one day, it went to zero. i did something to make them
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mad, and a white to me off the internet. you can take a name -- jasmine, revolution, occupy, revolt -- and why it off the internet in china, but what you cannot do is suppressed discussions by tens of millions of people. there have been many examples of that in the last year in china. >> one of the story lines during the era of spring especially was the so-called national kill? that egypt had, etc. is that still possible? has technology changed enough that nations can not necessarily have that? >> it is technologically possible. different people have different views on that. i think it is possible. it is technologically possible, but the united states, for example, also invests unabashedly in technologies where if the government does turn off the internet, turn off
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mobile networks, redundant and with can be brought in -- redundant bandwidth. i think it is ultimately a losing game to try to wall off people's access to information, to the digital environment. if anything, it blew up in mubarak's face. if anything, the fact that he shut off these networks and these mobile networks help contribute to the panic and hysteria in egypt and lost them a lot of whatever support they had left. >> on the note of extra band with being brought in, how has the border with internet affected old question -- old- fashioned questions of state sovereignty -- on the node of extra bandwidth. >> look, the internet is disrupted in a variety of different ways. part of the way in which it is disruptive is it can challenge the traditional notion of state sovereignty.
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-- the internet is disruptive in a variety of different ways. bits and bytes do not really care where the physical border of a package is. we can see this right now, for example, in deliberations around internet governance. i think there are a lot of governments that fear the loss of control that comes with connectedness. there are a lot of bureaucrats around the world -- and i have seen and heard a lot of them -- who, now that they have figured out how powerful the internet is in the context of governance -- they want to regulate it in a new way. they want government to take over how the internet is governed and how it works, and they want to impose systems on top of the internet, which they justify as saying, "we are going to impose our sovereignty on the internet." the problem is that is not how the internet works. attempts for government to take over the internet or to change its governance structure, i think, are misguided and ultimately not going to work. >> another thing is surveillance
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technology built by a lot of western companies, which often has been in use when used in some context but very nefarious uses when used by syrian machines and others. what was once ability does the state department of the u.s. government have to monitor and restrict the technologies -- what responsibility? >> that is a great question. as networking technologies become increasingly powerful and increasingly ubiquitous, their ability to oppress the people also grows. you cannot take utopian view of the internet and of network technologies. in fact, a government with malignant intent can bend these networks to infiltrate, monitor, and manipulate what is happening there and to surveil its citizens. this is something that -- let me be blunt -- it really scares me. i have a 5-year-old, 7-year- old, and 9-year-old, and the world they grow up i will be a
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very different one than the one i did in terms of hyper transparency and in terms of near-constant surveillance -- hypertransparency. we restrict the sale of technologies which can be used to oppress people in countries where we have sanctions. in other cases, there are export controls where we can help inform the licensing of certain products and services. in your question, you made the right point -- certain of the use of these technologies are utterly benign. the same thing which can be used to inspect a packet to determine whether people are organizing a protest can also be used to, reasonably, filter out spam. you have to remember that the very same technologies that can be used for reasonable and benign purposes can also be used for malignant purposes. >> alec ross, what is an example of one of those technologies that might be restricted -- restrictive? >> there are a variety of
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technologies that the syrian governments, and iranian governments, and others have tried to access, either from the united states or from europe. the state department engages pierre the problem is -- just to be blunt -- there are a lot of vendors out there now. we can restrict a sale of exports from american companies. i am really glad that europeans have joined us in similar restricting sales of a lot of things from europe to certain of these aggressive environments, but then they are able to turn around and buy it from another country. you know, there are not two or three or four companies out there selling gear. it is a very remunerative environment. there are countries around the world who are spending tens of billions of dollars to try to monitor its information environment. whenever you have got that much money at play, there will be
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people who are trying to make the money, so this has been a big problem. >> who are you reaching when you do digital diplomacy elsewhere in the world? something like 2% of americans use twitter for political purposes. >> first of all, i would say it does not have to be all for political purposes. a lot of what we are trying to do is increase commerce between the united states and other countries. part of what we're trying to do is debunk myths about the united states. part of what we're trying to do is increase tourism to the united states. a lot of this is not all about politics. there are now over 5 billion mobile handsets on planet earth. the average mobile penetration in developed countries is now about 116%. in developing countries, it is about 70% or 80%. most of those people are using those handsets to access social media platforms where the state department publishes. we are reaching, frankly, large
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numbers of individuals the world around. there are about 2.4 billion traditional internet users, and the number will be 3 billion in the near future. we are communicating with a great many of those, but what is also interesting to us is thinking about this from a development perspective, and thinking about how if for example sub-saharan africa or south central asia are becoming newly-connected, how can our development programs become more effective? how can we increase the health and well-being of people in these countries? again, going above and beyond traditional communication. >> i was watching you talk a little bit about bureaucrats around the world and how you have seen their resistance to -- >> not all of them. some of them. >> exactly. i wanted to look at the other side. have you seen some that have embraced and moved more toward democracy and freedom? >> absolutely. you know, i think that -- i think, particularly younger
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people, people who are growing up connected are much more comfortable with the internet, and they are much more comfortable with the disruption that it causes, whether it is disruption in business, changing the music industry, changing the industry of journalism, or political change, and sell a lot of what i am seeing around the world, even in authoritarian countries is the young people get it -- so a lot of what i am is seeing. i have a feeling they will be the long term drivers of change. there have also been a great many champions, other than hillary clinton, who have seen these issues that she has elevated and have similarly made it big foreign policy priority for themselves. for example, i think about sweden and they're terrific foreign minister. there are many examples of leaders around the world saying, "you know what? hillary clinton is right. internet freedom is something that is going to be important for our freedoms and economic
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prosperity in the future, and we are going to adapt it for our own purposes." >> the myanmar government today listed some of its publishing restrictions. do you think the internet played a role in that, and do you think the work you do generally can have an effect in quite low internet penetration nations like myanmar or even north korea? >> i do not know what the impact of the internet was on having myanmar list its media restrictions -- lift its media restrictions. while this was a very positive step forward, part of what we would like to see at the state department is for them also to eradicate their censorship board. the changes in myanmar are ones that we feel very good about, but we are trying to temper the enthusiasm, recognizing that there is a long way to go. i do think that as myanmar brings the internet into its country and it is taking steps to do that, i think that it will inevitably have a very positive impact on society.
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you asked about north korea. i think it is very intriguing what is happening there. powerful mobile networks in china now can reach almost p'yongyang, and people are risking life and limb now struggling -- smuggling mobile handsets across the border from china into north korea. the evidence is that it is disrupting the information environment somewhat in north korea. i do not think that a revolution will spring up anytime soon, but it will be interesting to observe what changes, if any, take place because of a little bit of connectedness in a historical black out country. >> how much time do you spend on the issue of cybersecurity in your work and spectrum policy? >> i spend relatively little on both of those. the area of cybersecurity is so big that we have other folks at
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the state department focusing on it. to the extent that i had engaged on it, it has been to ensure that whatever cybersheet -- cybersecurity policies are under consideration in the administration in congress do not undermine free expression, do not undermine the way that the internet works. so there is this a tough balance -- the stuff balance to strike between security and openness, and i play a role trying to help strike that balance -- this tough balance. balance between necessary security while also maintaining the openness that has allowed the internet to be the platform for innovation that it has been. it is a very difficult balance to strike. >> this is c-span's "communicators" program, our weekly look at technology and policy. thank you, gentlemen. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> this weekend, before the start of the democratic national convention on tuesday in
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charlotte, we will show speeches from past democratic national conventions. first, john f. kennedy in 1960 from los angeles, followed by president lyndon johnson in 1964 from atlantic city. then bill clinton in 1992 in new york city. later, harry truman in 1948 from philadelphia. >> now, john f. kennedy accepting the nomination for president at the 1960 democratic convention. the massachusetts senator won the nomination on the first ballot, competing against the senate's majority leader, lyndon johnson, and former nominee, adlai

The Communicators
CSPAN September 1, 2012 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT

Technology & Foreign Policy News/Business. (2012) Alec Ross, State Dept. Senior Adviser for Innovation, on the use of technology in U.S. Foreign Policy. New.

TOPIC FREQUENCY China 8, Clinton 7, United States 5, Syria 5, Alec Ross 4, John F. Kennedy 3, America 3, North Korea 3, Tunisia 3, Lyndon Johnson 3, Robert Ford 2, Egypt 2, U.s. 2, Thomas Jefferson 2, Bill Clinton 1, Harry Truman 1, Hypertransparency 1, Leaderlessness 1, Assad Regime 1, Cnn 1
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